May 19, 2014

Mina Loy and her crowd in Paris


Mina Loy was a writer, poet, and artist who had a fascinating life. In Paris in the 1920s, she was friends with writers and artists like Gertrude Stein, Man Ray, William Carlos Williams, Marcel Duchamp and Ezra Pound.

While Gertrude Stein had a falling out with Sylvia Beach, the proprietor of Shakespeare & Company, when the bookshop published Ulysses by James Joyce, Mina Loy—a friend of Stein’s — managed to stay on good terms with Beach. According to Carolyn Burke, author of Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy, Beach knew Loy…

… as a subscriber, one of the authors whose books were on display, and a member of the group that Beach called “the Crowd.” A brisk practical woman, Beach responded to Mina’s charm. “We had three raving beauties in ‘the Crowd’ she observed in her memoirs, “all in one family, which was not fair…”

The other beauties Beach was referring to were Mina’s daughters Joelle and Fabi. Mina Loy moved to Italy while having an affair with Marinetti, the misogynist leader of the Futurist movement. When she was able to divorce her first husband, she married the Dadaist writer Arthur Cravan in Mexico City and became pregnant with his child — just before he mysteriously disappeared and was never seen again. In New York City she became fascinated by the people living on the Bowery, who inspired her to make collages. Her posthumously published novel Insel is now available from Melville House, with an introduction by Sarah Hayden.


Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.